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LGBT Film Fests Drawn Into International Political Disputes

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by Anthony Kaufman
May 8, 2013 4:26 PM
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Two stories received over the transom today reveal the tricky international politics of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film events, and the activist beliefs they stand by. While San Francisco's venerable Frameline event is being pulled into a debate about Palestinian rights, Russian prosecutors have notified an international LGBT film festival, Side by Side, that they are violating Russia's law on “foreign agents,” the event’s organizers said on Wednesday.

A poster for the Russian LGBT film fest Side by Side.
A poster for the Russian LGBT film fest Side by Side.

Last November, Russia reportedly passed a law requiring all NGOs engaged in political activity, and receiving finance from abroad, to register as a "foreign agent," which many have suggested has overtones of political subversion.

According to reports, prosecutors decided that the organization had violated the law on two occasions: by publishing a brochure “The Worldwide LGBT Movement: Local Practices to Global Politics” and by taking part in a social awareness campaign against the recently adopted bill banning “gay propaganda” among minors, which is set to go into effect later this month.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., filmmakers are declining to participate in San Francisco's seminal LGBT fest, Frameline, due to the Israeli Consulate’s sponsorship of the festival, and what filmmakers are calling its tacit acceptance of the Israeli government's pinkwashing of human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians.

One filmmaker posted a link and an excerpt of a recent letter that was sent to the Frameline Board of Directors demanding they stop accepting sponsorships from the Israeli Consulate:

LGBTQI Palestinians have asked international queers to respect the cultural and academic boycott of Israel called by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Please read their statement. The call of Palestinian civil society makes it clear that any institution sponsored by or partnering with any agency of the Israeli government is a target of boycott by people who support a just peace in the region. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are time-honored nonviolent strategies for political and social change. Queer Palestinian groups and other queer organizations have urged Frameline to take a stand against the injustices suffered by the Palestinians under occupation by Israel.

Signed by notables John Greyson, Angela Davis, Susan Stryker, Barbara Hammer, Sarah Schulman, Eric Stanley, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and Alice Walker, among many others, the petition sends a strong signal to the festival: LGBT events, whether they like it or not, must apparently take into account the politically precarious state of LGBT rights, not just in the U.S., but around the world. The Russian folks at Side by Side would certainly agree.


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